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Google Latitude’s #1 Problem Can’t Be Fixed

You can’t fix trust. Not with a click of a button.

Have a read of this:

1 in 3 Australians will snoop in the phones of their partners (according to a Virgin Mobile survey).

60% of them do it when their partner is in the shower. 41% do it with their partner in view.

(quote from Tomi Ahonen’s presentation at Future of Mobile 2008.)

Principally I suspect the ‘snooping’ is looking at text messages and recent call lists.

Now if it’s that bad without sticking ‘location’ into the mix, how is it going to be when the masses take a look at Google Latitude?

How many relationships — business and personal — are about to get absolutely nailed by the fact that your friends and partners can *SEE* where you are. Or where you were?

Witness the following frequently used explanations that I often overhear:

Chap: I’m still in the office
Google Latitude: He’s over the other side of London. With friends Graham, Paul. And, er — if you check out that Kate girl’s blog, you’ll see her Latitude puts her within 100m of him.

Chap: I’m just at the shops buying you something in that underwear shop!
Google Latitude: He’s at PC World, about a mile away from any shops that might sell underwear.

Chap: (Text message) I’m just getting on the train.
Google Latitude: He hasn’t left the office.

Chap: NO? I’m not out with the guys. I’m just getting a sandwich then I’m on my way home.
Google Latitude: Before he switched me off, he was sitting next to ‘the guys’. And that bitch girl Kate was heading this year. That was an hour ago. That’s all I know, right?

Chap: Sorry boss, I’m stuck in the snow and I won’t be able to get into work.
Google Latitude: Rubbish! He’s at the leisure park near work — next to the cinema!

Teenager: I’m, er, just going to the shops to get a can of Coke. Back in 20.
Google Latitude: He’s round that Vicky-girl’s house again.

Teenager: Yeah I’m at school. So what, mum?
Google Latitude: He’s not in school. He’s not in the same town actually. Ask him how he got to the next town?

And so on.

Despite the fact that Latitude has bucketloads of privacy goodness, the use of this technology is going to take quite a while to get a hang of…

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

27 replies on “Google Latitude’s #1 Problem Can’t Be Fixed”

It’ll only be a problem for those who lie about their location to people that they are supposed to trust.
And I can’t think of a reason why they would activate the facility in the first place…

What I find most amusing/scary about the Lattitude hysteria is the amount of deliberate disinformation being spread about it, and I know not why, other than it makes an easy tabloid story. I glimpsed The Sun in a waiting room, and they had an article about Lattitude. Let's remember:
You have to download it. You have to activate it. YOU have to tell it where you are. You have to actively share it, and specify who you share it with.
By the time The Sun had mangled it, it was “The spy in your pocket”!

It only works if you have Google Maps running and are logged into Latitude, so you have to to consent to sharing your location. Plus, the ability to manually set your location should give a lot of the less honest people out there a reprieve!

good ole sun and its advocative journalism.

i suspect the scare is that if it gets universally popular it will be suspicious if people didn't have it. some how i can't see it happening, majority of society is not interested, just as they are not interested in facebook.

to be fair any relationship in which you'd check up on your significant other whether they actually are with friends is doomed in the first place. i really don't think it's google's place to teach any one honesty. or any other virtues for that matter.

let's please not lose the perspective here.

Ewan, back in Australia in 1994, when caller-ID was about to launch, there were massive privacy issues raised (“how dare you send my number when I call someone”) etc and at one stage it looked like it may be delayed.

Now…when you receive a “Private number” call – do you think twice before answering it – compared to the “Hi Ewan how are you”?

Walking past normobs in the street, the most often asked question is always “where are you?”. The answer then helps the caller define the rest of the conversation.

If you call me and ask me where I am – I'll probably tell you – why would I not?

The latitude function WILL take a while for people to get used to, but just as SMS and caller-ID had to find their feet – latitude type location products will eventually come into their own.

When this becomes really mass market (which is the reason behind Google launching it) is so that instead of having to ask where someone is in the first part of the call, those with whom we have shared our number and our location will know instantly where we are before they call – quite a foreign concept now but I predict it will catch on – just like that SMS thingy concept.

PS: Latitude has a wide range of privacy settings built in. If I don't want someone to know where I am – I can set it manually.

Oh woe, people can’t lie. Whatever, I hate people who bullshit like that. Google lattitude isn’t a problem, liars are.

What happened to actually being truthful and telling people where you actually are?

If you are stupid enough to share your location and lie about whilst not covering your tracks, it's your fault surely?

Wow, i didn't realise “normobs” was common parlance in the mobile industry these days. They also consume fodder y'know.

Comparing Latitude to SMS is pointless, one is a network signalling service, the other is an opt-in service which currently has no commercial viability.

Andrew is absolutely right.

Technology alway changed our perception of privacy and Latitude – or LBS in general – will not differ in this case. The problem is, that not everybody is bein affected by technology at the same time and in the same way. That’s why there is always a group of early adopters who are facing scrutiny of their sanity. Then, gradually, technology gets adopted in to the masses and the cycle starts again.

Beg to differ but 15 years ago SMS was a

“network signalling service with no commercial viability” – how times change when you let Normbs use a service they work out how they want to use it.

It would be kind of cool for figuring out where your friends are at. How cool would it be to be taking a taxi in NYC, check your phone and see your friends are in a bar just up the street, stop in and join them! Sweet

I think you can cloak your location if you do not want others to see your location, i.e.. if you are studying for an exam or on a date with someone else! Bad!

It would be kind of cool for figuring out where your friends are at. How cool would it be to be taking a taxi in NYC, check your phone and see your friends are in a bar just up the street, stop in and join them! Sweet

I think you can cloak your location if you do not want others to see your location, i.e.. if you are studying for an exam or on a date with someone else! Bad!

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